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The Painful Cost of Consciousness: Losing Social Capital and Friendships in Pursuit of Justice

Lucretia Berry  •  April 9, 2024 

Yes! You will lose friends! 

Yes! You will fall out of favor with some people!

Becoming aware and actively engaged in dismantling social injustices is a transformative journey. However, this journey often comes with a painful cost – the loss of social capital and friendships. Along this journey, I have witnessed compassionate people experience alienation from friends and social circles. 

I worked with the pastor of a dynamically multi-racial church whose mission, since its inception, centered bridging across ethnic, cultural, and other socially constructed dividing lines. As national tensions grew around systemic racial injustice, the church’s leaders began to bring awareness to the need to foster racial healing. With such a mission, you’d think the parishioners looked forward to the work of bridging beyond celebrating diversity. Unfortunately, in response to the call to actualize justice, a massive number of families fled the church and eventually, some of the pastor’s ‘life-long’ friends abandoned him.  

I have no friends - Drawception

From racial inequality and gender discrimination, to economic disparity and environmental degradation, as we open our eyes to these injustices and recognize our privilege within existing power structures, we inevitably challenge the status quo. However, this awakening comes at a price.

One of the most significant costs is the erosion of social capital—the trust, respect, and influence we have within our social circles. Friends, family members, and colleagues who may not share our perspectives or who feel threatened by our newfound awareness may choose to alienate us. It’s not uncommon to face resistance, pushback, or even hostility from those who perceive our liberation as disruptive or confrontational. We have upset the delicate balance of social dynamics – challenged the comfort of those who would rather maintain the status quo. As differing values and priorities come to light, I’ve found myself wondering if relationships so easily abandoned were built on complacency or ignorance?

The loss of social capital can be particularly painful because it often entails losing connections that were once meaningful and supportive. Friends we’ve shared laughter and memories with, colleagues we’ve collaborated with, and even family members we’ve grown up alongside may distance themselves from us when our awareness clashes with their worldview.

What are some signs that you've outgrown friends? - Quora

Furthermore, networking opportunities, career advancement, and even everyday interactions can be affected when we’re perceived as troublemakers or agitators. In a society that often values conformity over dissent, living our awareness and convictions out loud  can carry real risks to our social standing and professional prospects. I’ve watched people choose to hide their social consciousness rather than risk losing social standing in their spheres of influence. 

Yes, this sense of rejection and isolation can take a toll on our mental and emotional well-being, leaving us feeling disillusioned and alone. So, it is essential that we acknowledge the pain and loss!

Also, we must remember that we are not alone. There is a vast community of co-laborers who share our commitment to co-creating a better world. By building and nurturing these new connections, we can find support, strength, and resilience in the face of adversity.

We know that meaningful change often comes at a personal cost. Despite these challenges, we must choose to continue in our pursuit. We will find solace in building new communities of like-minded individuals who share our values and vision for a just world.  We must hold on to the hope that our efforts will ultimately lead to a more equitable and loving society, where the sacrifices we make today will pave the way for a better tomorrow.

REFLECTION

  1. Have you ever experienced the loss of social capital or friendships due to advocating for social justice? Share your story with us and let’s support each other through these challenges. 
  2. How do you navigate the delicate balance between raising awareness and maintaining relationships with those who may not share your perspectives? 
  3. Where have you found new friendships and social circles along your journey?
Dr. Zinobia Bennefield has created this course to help you gain a greater sense of love for yourself and your journey, and the ability to process your emotions when engaged in this tough work.

Lucretia carter berry
Lucretia Carter Berry, PhD, is a distinguished author, educator, and speaker, as well as the visionary founder of Brownicity, a nonprofit dedicated to fostering education designed to inspire a culture of true belonging and justice for all. Lucretia is also a valued contributor to incourage.me, sharing her insights and wisdom on topics of faith, resilience, and personal growth. Through her books, Teaching for Justice and Belonging – A Journey for Educators and Parents (2022), Hues of You – An Activity Book for Learning About the Skin You Are In (2022), and What LIES Between Us – Fostering First Steps Toward Racial Healing (2016), her impactful TED Talk, and her commitment to building just communities, Lucretia encourages meaningful engagement that transcends boundaries, fostering personal development, resilience, and the transformative capacity within each of us.